GUEST BLOG: Episcopal Public Policy Network on Gender-Based Violence

 

Worldwide, millions of women and girls, 1 in 3, are subject to violence simply because of their gender. This is not only a gross violation of human rights, undermining the inherent human dignity of women and girls, but widespread and persistent gender-based violence is also a threat to global health and economies around the world. The view that women are less than equal to men fuels this epidemic.

Women and girls in developing countries experience particularly high rates of gender-based violence. Some of this violence is carried out in the form of battery and intimate partner violence, honor killings, rape, human trafficking, and female genital cutting.

 

GUEST BLOG: Episcopal Public Policy Network

The U.S. government can play a critical role in combating gender-based violence around the world. A bipartisan group of senators have re-introduced the International Violence against Women Act (I-VAWA), a bill that was also introduced last year but failed to pass in Congress. I-VAWA makes ending violence against women and girls a top diplomatic, development, and foreign assistance priority by ensuring the U.S. government has a strategy to efficiently and effectively coordinate existing efforts to prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally. Since this legislation is aimed at coordinating and integrating existing programs, it does not require appropriation of additional funding.

Urge Your Senators to Support the International Violence Against Women Act!

As Episcopalians, we believe that all human beings are made in the image of God. Violence based on gender is offensive to our humanity, and to God. General Convention has passed multiple resolutions in support of various efforts to eradicate gender-based violence in our churches and communities-both here at home and abroad.

CPG and the Changing Realities of Clergy Deployment

he Church Pension Group (CPG), a financial services organization that serves the Episcopal Church, hosted a webinar to discuss insights from its research on the changing realties of clergy deployment in the Episcopal Church. The webinar, entitled Clergy Deployment Trends: Adapting to a New Reality, was led by Dr. Matthew Price, Senior Vice President, Research and Data at CPG. Individuals can listen to the recording or read the research at www.cpg.org/.

“We conducted this research to better understand the changing nature of ministry in the Episcopal Church and how our decisions around pension and health benefits align to the evolving needs of those who serve the Church,” said Dr. Price. “Through this research we discovered that the old model of clergy deployment where an individual would serve full time with a single Episcopal employer with no fixed end date is no longer the norm.

Today we are seeing more Episcopal clergy working in part-time situations, 2 sometimes for multiple Episcopal employers, and also as bi-vocational clergy with employment inside and outside the Church.

“This research was used to quantify the impact of recent revisions to The Church Pension Fund Clergy Pension Plan and related plans and will help us address 2015 General Convention Resolution A177,” added Dr. Price. “In fact, when we recently met with the Fund for the Diaconate
they expressed their gratitude for our efforts to address the needs of deacons as they fulfill an important role in the mission and ministry of the Church.”

A full report on the research will be issued later this year.

Methodology

The research included more than 4,000 online survey responses from priests and deacons in good standing who were under 72 years of age. Quantitative findings were supplemented by a series of focus groups that took place in North Carolina, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

About Dr. Matthew Price

Matthew Price serves as Senior Vice President for Research and Data at the Church Pension Group (CPG). In addition to serving as the Recorder of Ordinations, he is responsible for collecting insights that help inform CPG’s decisions around major policy initiatives in the area of retirement benefits and also has involvement in technical system launches and integrations. He joined CPG in June 2001 as its director of analytical research.

Prior to joining CPG, he was Associate Director, Duke Pastoral Leadership 3 Project, at the J. Ormond Center of the Duke University Divinity School. Previously, he was a Research Associate with the Religion in Urban America Program at the University of Illinois, at Chicago. His background also includes teaching positions at Duke, North Carolina State, and the University of Illinois, at Chicago.

He received a B.A. in sociology from the London School of Economics, a Master’s Degree in history from the University of Sussex, and a Ph.D. in sociology from Princeton.

About The Church Pension Fund

The Church Pension Fund (CPF) is an independent financial services organization that serves the Episcopal Church. With approximately $13 billion in assets, CPF and its affiliated companies, collectively CPG, provide retirement, health, and life insurance benefits to clergy and lay employees of the Episcopal Church. CPG also offers property and casualty insurance as well as book and music publishing, including the official worship materials of the Episcopal Church. Learn more at www.cpg.org. 

Presiding Bishop Curry’s Christmas Message 2017

Have a blessed Christmas, a wonderful New Year,
and go out and make music in the heart of the world.

[December 12, 2017] “Have a blessed Christmas, a wonderful New Year, and go out and make music in the heart of the world,” Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael Curry said in his Christmas Message 2017.

The video of the Presiding Bishop’s message is here. 

Of Guns & Christmas -- A Message from Bishop Hirschfeld

Charleston. Milwaukee. Nashville. Sutherland Springs. Cairo.  Religious leaders of every tradition, all around the globe, are considering what was once unthinkable—an “active shooter” in their houses of worship. Religious violence is not new in this world, and no faith has been spared. As a Bishop in the Episcopal Church, I have been asking: How are followers of Jesus to respond now that the epidemic of gun violence has entered the Church? How can we bear witness to the Good News of Jesus in an age when so many encourage us to bear arms? 

To deter potential assailants with guns, many Christians assert our rights and freedoms to carry weapons, even in spaces, which offer sanctuary. However, the reports of trainings offered by security consultants, and my own conversation with local police, leave me convinced that the more our parishioners are armed, the less safe our sacred spaces would become. At the same time, absent the same machinery of airport terminals, policies forbidding weapons will be very hard to enforce. So, we confront the human condition. Evil happens. As active shooter trainers have said, “Even Christians get cancer”-- a simple statement of deep theological truth. We live in a world of harm, danger, illness. Bad things happen to good people, even at Christmas. But Jesus shows a path for the troubled soul and society.

While there is a need for more public theology and prayer on the topic of guns in worship spaces, my faith leads me to the illogical, yet brilliantly hopeful, message of the first Christmas when the Almighty entered the world in utter weakness. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul quotes perhaps the first Christmas carol of the Church. To paraphrase: Christ did not count equality with God as something to exploit for advantage, even self-defense, but instead chose to empty himself by becoming vulnerable, a defenseless human being--to suffer death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8) 

The way of the Christ Child requires vulnerability. Yes, we can get cancer and we can get shot. Following Jesus, we care for the sick. And, we protect the vulnerable, sometimes by standing in the way of danger. Remember Jesus standing in front of a crowd of angry men ready to stone a woman to death, or insisting his disciples sheathe their swords, or taking the place of a bandit on the cross? These acts took guts--and faith. 

There are many more conversations to be had, and more questions to ask and answer about guns in places of worship. What are our faith communities doing to prevent gun violence and address root causes of mental health, hatred, fear of the Other? I start with this: a life modeled on the suffering of God in Christ will always be at risk of dying. But, we stake our lives on a hope infinitely liberating and glorious. In an age fixated on security, a Christian life patterned on the paradox of God’s strength displayed in weakness could seem ridiculous. I choose to follow a self-emptying God, revered and celebrated in the arrival of a helpless and poor child in a feed-trough who eventually dies in humiliation to draw all humanity to a life of freedom and purpose. That belief will always contrast sharply to the fear and violence of any era. 

That stark contrast, I believe, is that of light shining brightly in darkness. The good news of the great joy of Christmas is that light always wins. Always.

--The Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld
Bishop of The Episcopal Church of New Hampshire

 

2018 United Thank Offering Grant Applications now Accepted

Applications are now accepted for the 2018 United Thank Offering grants.  The application forms are available here.

The focus for the 2018 United Thank Offering grants is Becoming the Beloved Community: Racial Healing, Reconciliation and Justice. Information on Becoming the Beloved Community is available here.

“UTO is inviting our entire church to embrace the JESUS movement and to work toward "Becoming Beloved Communities," commented Sandra K. Squires, Ed.D., United Thank Offering Board President. “UTO looks forward to funding bold efforts to heal racial divisions within parishes and dioceses.”

Known worldwide as UTO, the United Thank Offering grants are awarded for projects that address human needs and help alleviate poverty, both domestically and internationally in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. United Thank Offering was founded to support innovative mission and ministry that the Episcopal Church budget has not yet expanded to fund and to promote thankfulness and mission in the whole Church. 

Detailed guidelines for applying for the grants are here. The deadline is March 2, 2018 at 5 pm Eastern/4 pm Central/3 pm Mountain/2 pm Pacific/1 pm Alaska/ 11 am Hawaii.

The list of allowable and projects not eligible are listed here. 

Important notes
The guidelines in detail are available here.

Please note:
The United Thank Offering will accept:
• grant applications for start-up costs of a new ministry.
• grant applications for seed money for start-up positions.
• one grant application per diocese within the Episcopal Church and one per province of the Anglican Communion.
• one additional application for a companion/partnership grant from a diocese of the Episcopal Church.

Full details, including applications that will not be funded, are located here. United Thank Offering will not fund the continuation of ongoing ministries.

For more information about guidelines and applications, contact the Rev. Heather Melton, Staff Officer for United Thank Offering, hmelton@episcopalchurch.org

 

Episcopal Evangelism Grant Opportunity

Episcopal Evangelism Grants

The application process is now open for the new Episcopal Evangelism Grants Program, designed to fund local and regional evangelism efforts in the Episcopal Church.

“This program will encourage our whole Church to share resources, catalyze imagination, and ultimately cultivate a network of evangelists who can learn from each other and connect with each other,” explained the Rev. Canon Susan Brown Snook, Chair of both the Episcopal Evangelism Grants Committee and the Executive Council Committee on Local Mission and Ministry. The Episcopal Evangelism Grants program is coordinated by the Local Mission and Ministry Committee in collaboration with the Episcopal Church’s Evangelism Initiatives Team.

“Evangelism isn’t some scary practice only ‘other’ Christians do,” said the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, Presiding Bishop’s Canon for Evangelism, Reconciliation and Creation Care, and a member of the Grants Committee. “Evangelism is the heart of Christian life, and we hope this program will light a fire and connect Episcopalians who are creating unique, authentically Episcopal ways of seeking, naming and celebrating Jesus’ loving presence everywhere.”

The Committee seeks proposals focused on several goals:

  • Create and spread resources that equip Episcopalians and churches to become evangelists and to share and receive faith stories in daily life
  • To create opportunities for people who are not part of a faith community to build their own loving, liberating, life-giving relationships with God in Christ.
  • To aim for lasting, broad impact.
  • To employ innovation and creativity.
  • To promote churchwide learning, understanding and practical application.

Episcopal institutions (congregations, dioceses, provinces, schools, monastic communities, Episcopal organizations and other Episcopal affiliated entities) are eligible to receive these funds. Regional collaborative partnerships with non-Episcopal entities are welcome, but an Episcopal entity must serve as the project leader, active manager, and reporting agent. Those associated with a seminary or formation program are encouraged to explore funding through the Episcopal Evangelism Society at www.ees1862.org.

Grants are available for up to $2,000 for an individual congregation and up to $8,000 for multi-church, diocesan and regional collaborations.  Groups receiving funding are expected to make a significant financial contribution toward the project, as well. The Grants Committee will review proposals and make recommendations to Executive Council at its January 2018 meeting. Distribution will occur within four weeks of notification and completion of requisite forms.

 Application, criteria, and additional information are available here www.episcopalchurch.org/evangelismApplication deadline is December 15 at 8 pm Eastern. For more information, contact Kayla Massey at kmassey@episcopalchurch.org or (212) 716-6022.

Preparing to Become the Beloved Community

A newly developed Advent resource is now available to help Episcopalians everywhere to take up Jesus’ ministry of reconciliation and healing. Every congregation will soon receive in the mail Preparing to Become the Beloved Community, a multi-fold poster and resource pack with prayer, reflections and activities for each week of Advent. The resources can also be downloaded at http://bit.ly/belovedcommunity.

Preparing builds on the Becoming Beloved Community vision document and resources, which Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings and their supporting officers introduced earlier this year. The document lays out the Episcopal Church’s long-term commitment to racial healing, reconciliation and justice.

“During Advent, Christians focus on how much we need Jesus to bear light, healing and hope in a broken world,” noted the Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, the Presiding Bishop’s Canon for Evangelism, Reconciliation and Creation Care. “This is a mysterious, vulnerable time. We’re opening to Christ. We’re opening to different neighbors and strangers who are Christ among us. We hope these resources meet the real hunger among Episcopalians to live like Jesus Movement people.”

Throughout Advent, an Episcopal Church social media campaign will also stir hope, reflection and action around racial reconciliation; join or follow using the hashtag #adventbeloved.

Advent begins on Sunday, December 3 and concludes on Christmas Day.

Preparing to Become the Beloved Community was developed by the Episcopal Church’s Racial Reconciliation Team. The resources are designed for group use among all ages, including Adult Forums, Sunday School, Women’s and Men’s groups, Advent preparation, Vestry meetings, Confirmation studies and more.

Each of the four weeks in Advent features Bible readings, reflections and activities focused on one part of the spiraling journey toward racial healing, reconciliation and justice:

  • Advent 1: Telling the Truth about Our Churches and Race
  • Advent 2: Proclaiming the Dream of Beloved Community
  • Advent 3: Practicing the Way of Love in the Pattern of Jesus
  • Advent 4: Repairing the Breach in Institutions and Society

The original Becoming Beloved Community vision lays these themes out visually around a labyrinth. “It’s a different way of approaching this work,” said Heidi Kim, Staff Officer for Racial Reconciliation. “It’s truly an invitation to spiritual formation and social transformation.”

For more information, contact Emily Gallagher at egallagher@episcopalchurch.org or 212-716-6242.

#AdventWord, a Global Advent Calendar

A message from James Koester SSJE, Superior,
The Society of Saint John the Evangelist

Advent begins in five days.
If you would like to receive #AdventWord this year we invite you to click this linkwww.adventword.org/sign-up. #AdventWord – the Anglican Communion’s Global Advent Calendar – begins on Sunday, 3 December, 2017, with images and meditations available via email, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. During the 23 days of Advent, a daily email featuring the #AdventWord of the day will go out at 5 a.m. each day, and respondents are encouraged to share their responses to the meditations and images to the aggregated prayer walls within the advent calendar.

As monks we pray with images of Jesus in icons. #AdventWord helps teach everyone how to pray with images as we prepare for the coming of Emmanuel. We developed #AdventWord to bring joy. We have passed it on to Virginia Theological Seminary to work with the Anglican Communion Office and we are excited to see #AdventWord being offered to a wider world.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

How to participate:
Go to http://adventword.org and sign up to receive a daily email. Each day of Advent, there will be an invitation to read a very short email reflection for that day’s assigned word, and to then share your own image or short reflection via social media using #AdventWord and a hashtag for the word of the day. Make sure there is a space between the tags, for example: #AdventWord #Celebrate.  On Facebook, go to the AdventWord page and post to the Timeline using #AdventWord and the tag of the day, making sure that your post is set to “public,” or we can’t see it! On Twitter, simply include the hashtags in your reflection or with your image.  On Instagram, post to the AdventWord feed.
Visit: instagram.com/adventword
Visit: twitter.com/AdventWord
Visit: facebook.com/AdventWordOrg


In Advance: 
If you want to get your images ready in advance, here’s a cheat sheet. Remember to share this with friends and family who would enjoy participating – Advent Word is an ecumenical project!  We welcome posts from all persons using images and phrases that resonate with #AdventWord and:


3 December #Awaken
4 December #Journey
5 December #Gather
6 December #Simplify
7 December #Heal
8 December #Mend
9 December #Focus
10 December #Prepare
11 December #Messenger
12 December #Watch
13 December #Voice
14 December #Wilderness
15 December #Trust
16 December #Among
17 December #Light
18 December #Dazzle
19 December #Open
20 December #Embrace
21 December #Renew
22 December #Greeting
23 December #Child
24 December #Believe
25 December #Celebrate
During each of the days of Advent, it is hoped that everyone who participates will deepen their understanding of the coming of Jesus into the world, and will come to know that every aspect of their life is the stuff of prayer.

Episcopal Migration Ministries offers Epiphany Curriculum for 2018

Episcopal Migration Ministries is offering an Epiphany Curriculum, which includes free resources for congregations and individuals to oversee a faithful and meaningful Epiphany 2018.

“After the celebration and joy of Christmas, the Church turns its attention to the Epiphany of Christ, and a season when we remember time and again how God is made manifest in the world,” noted the Rev. Canon E. Mark Stevenson, Director of Episcopal Migration Ministries. “In these important days, Episcopal Migration Ministries invites congregations and faith communities to reflect on the rich history of the Episcopal Church’s work among refugees, as we have answered collectively the revealed Son of God’s call to be his ministers in a hurting world.”

Designed for Adult Christian Formation, the six-week Epiphany Curriculum is ideal for congregations, individuals, adult forums, discussion groups, and other church-based gatherings. “Participants will come away with a deeper understanding of Episcopal Migration Ministries, refugee resettlement, the stories of our new American neighbors, and how God is calling each of us into this work,” Stevenson said.

Click here for the Epiphany Curriculum.

“It was the story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt as refugees that inspired Episcopalians in Southern Ohio in the 1930s to offer refuge to those fleeing Nazi Europe,” Stevenson added. “So, too, do we hear that same story this Epiphany season and recommit ourselves to ministry among the 65 million children, women, and men who have fled their homes in our days because of violence or persecution. Each one of these children of God is a person with a name and a story, each with hopes and dreams, and all deserving of peace and opportunity. Through this educational resource, Episcopalians can come to know these stories, offer possibility to those hopes, and provide for the realization of such peace and opportunity.”

Episcopal Migration Ministries is a ministry of the Episcopal Church, and is one of nine national agencies responsible for resettling refugees in the United States in partnership with the government. Episcopal Migration Ministries currently has 22 affiliate offices in 17 states.

On the web:
Episcopal Migration Ministries offers Epiphany Curriculum for 2018

 

Pray, Fast, Act for Climate Resiliency

#PrayFastAct for Climate Resiliency

Today, join the Episcopal Church and The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as we Pray, Fast and Act for climate resiliency.

Pray for our nation's elected leaders to invest in sustainable recovery and preparednesss infrastructure designed for an uncertain and dangerous future.

"Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on Earth, you made us fellow workers in your creation: Give us wisdom and reverence so to use the resources of nature, that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." -- For the Conservation of Natural Resources, The Book of Common Prayer

Fast to remember the damage wrought for so many around the world by environmental degradation and natural disaster.

Share on social media using #PrayFastAct and@TheEPPN. Post a picture of a dinner place setting with the reason you are fasting this month.

Act by urging our elected leaders to support strong policy solutions that address the increasingly urgent preparation and reconstruction needs of communities threatened by extreme and unpredictable weather.

Tell Congress to Address Climate Resiliency!